Summer seems so FULL. Full of sun, full of parties and friends, vacations, and so full of luscious produce. I want to eat it all. Sometime in the middle of summer, I start to get panicky when I visit the farmers market or a particularly good grocery store. I just can seem to get every good thing in my basket!
The same thing happens when I visit the garden. Suddenly the excitement of seeing the first green tomatoes sprouting from the vine grows from pride at the large harvest to a heavier sense of duty. A trip in the cool morning out to see the “sprouties” as we call them, leaves this mantra ringing in my ears: “I must do something with all of these tomatoes, I can’t let any of them go to waste.”
Perhaps you have had the same experience. Your to-do list for that day, be it many things or absolutely nothing, has now been altered to include a vague: “process tomatoes.” This could be anything! Puree? Can (groan)? Freeze? Nah. Freezing alone wouldn’t do them justice. Roasting. That feels easy.
Roasting tomatoes brings out their natural sugars and concentrates their flavor. You could even roast bland winter or early spring tomatoes and have a delicious result. I love to roast cherry tomatoes and watch the pockets of juice burst and then crisp around the edges.
Roasted tomatoes make the most wonderful simple pasta, with al dente penne or bow ties, and a few dollops of whole-milk ricotta or shaves of aged Parmesan. Roasted tomatoes are a welcome acid element in a roasted root vegetable salad of carrot, parsnip and onion, tossed very lightly with parsley, paprika, or harissa, depending on how cool it is outside.
To roast, wash all the tomatoes. You can roast any amount at one time. I prefer to do two large baking sheets full, because that is the most I can get into my oven at once.
Core the tomatoes, or cut a little off each end. Then quarter each tomato and if the seeds and juice want to come out, let them, into a separate bowl. Place only the tomato flesh on the baking sheet. An exception to this is the Roma. My Romas from the garden wanted to hold on their seeds in a very stubborn way, so I left them together.
On the baking sheet, everyone should have a little bit of their own space. If the sheet is too full, you’ll have steamed tomatoes, which aren’t bad, but they aren’t really that good either. You want the tomatoes to have room to get a little crispy on the edges.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little pepper and salt. I’m a firm believer that anything I roast gets a little pepper and salt, and that somehow it helps in the transformation of deliciousness, but you can leave this off if you are watching your salt intake.
Then roast, at 425 degrees F, for about 40 minutes. Halfway through the baking time, check on the tomatoes. Rotate the pans, so that the tomatoes that were at the back of the oven are now in the front, and switch the pans from top to bottom, so that each baking sheet gets a turn being on top.
After about 30 minutes of roasting, you will smell this good idea, and the panic you may have felt in that cool morning will be calmed. It will be completely forgotten long before you start enjoying the fruits of my summer garden labor during a cold winter night, diving into that steaming bowl of pasta.
When the tomatoes are done roasting, they will look smaller, wrinkled and slightly brown around the edges. Let them cool, and slip the large jewels into a small freezer bag, in a single layer if possible. Layer tomato filled bags on a small baking sheet or in a casserole and place them in your freezer like this, so they stay in a somewhat stackable shape. This is helpful if you’re like me with a lot of odds and ends in your freezer, and even if that’s not the case, it’s still a sensible thing to do.
When you are ready to use them, thaw the whole small bag, or partially thaw and then open up the bag and break or chop off chunks of roasted tomatoes, returning the rest to the freezer for another days use.
- 10-20 Roma tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large baking sheets
- Preheat the oven to 425° F. Wash and core each tomato, or cut off each end, whichever is easiest for you. Cut each tomato into quarters. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Roast, rotating and switching the pans halfway through, for about 40 minutes. Use some immediately, or let cool and freeze in quart size freezer bags in a single layer. Stack freezer bags in a casserole dish or on a backing sheet and let freeze flat, for at least 2 hours or over night. Remove baking sheet once the tomatoes are frozen. Tomatoes will last in the freezer up to a year.